Federal judge won’t block Colorado law banning abortion reversal treatment as state plans not to enforce it

Englewood-based Bella Health and Wellness had sought a preliminary injunction against the state, claiming SB23-190 violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and exercise of religion
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Posted at 12:45 PM, Apr 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-28 16:38:53-04

DENVER – A federal judge on Friday ruled it won’t block a controversial Colorado law which bans the use of abortion reversal treatment from taking effect since the state has pledged not to enforce the law for now.

U.S. District Court Judge Daniel D. Domenico denied Bella Health and Wellness’s request for a preliminary injunction against the State of Colorado after the state pledged not to enforce the law until a rulemaking process is completed, which should happen sometime in September.

The faith-based clinic, which operates out of Englewood, argued in a restraining order filed the same day Gov. Jared Polis signed SB23-190 into law that the measure violated their First Amendment rights to free speech and exercise of religion, as well as patients’ free-speech, due-process, and equal-protection rights.

During a hearing earlier this week, DeDe Chism, the co-founder and CEO Bella Health and Wellness, said state lawmakers’ comments during debate on the measure about wanting to come after faith-based clinics like hers made her fearful.

But after Domenico issued the temporary restraining order, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser revealed that the state’s medical and nursing boards met behind closed doors and voted not to enforce the ban until the rulemaking process was complete.

"A preliminary injunction is not necessary, and therefore not appropriate, at this time because the defendants have represented to the Court that they are treating SB 23-190 as if it were not yet in effect and has not changed preexisting law,” Domenico wrote Friday. “Because the defendants have already agreed to suspend any enforcement that would affect the plaintiffs, the motion is denied, and the temporary restraining order is dissolved.”

SB23-190 outlaws “deceptive practices” by anti-abortion centers, which are known to market themselves as abortion clinics but don’t actually offer the procedure. The law states health care workers who provide “medication abortion reversal treatments” would be engaging in unprofessional conduct and could be disciplined for providing them unless regulators pass rules saying that they are “generally accepted standard of practice.” It gave the medical, nursing and pharmacy boards until Oct. 1 to enact rules on it.

"Colorado’s attorney general ran away from this law once he realized the legislature had shot from the hip," said Rebekah Ricketts, a lawyer at Becket Law, a nonprofit based out of Washington, D.C., who represented Bella Health and Wellness. "Now that the State has promised under oath to act as if the law does not exist, women in Colorado will not be forced to undergo abortions they seek to reverse.” 

Bella Health gives doses of the hormone progesterone to women who have taken the abortion pill mifepristone, which inhibits progesterone, and decide not to continue the abortion process by taking a second drug, misoprostol.

Doctors use progesterone to try to prevent miscarriages. However, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says using it to try to reverse medication abortions is “unproven and unethical.”

About a dozen states have passed laws compelling abortion providers to tell their patients about the treatments. However, according to the Guttmacher Institute, Colorado is the only state that has banned them.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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